U.S. warns of continued al Qaeda threat
Official: Caution is meant as reminder after Spain bombings
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The State Department said Friday that it remains "deeply concerned" al Qaeda is planning more deadly attacks against Americans overseas and at home.
The department urged U.S. citizens to "increase their security awareness," especially when traveling abroad.
"We are seeing indications that al Qaeda continues to prepare to strike U.S. interests abroad," the State Department said in its worldwide caution.
"Al Qaeda attacks could possibly involve nonconventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents as well as conventional weapons of terror. We also cannot rule out that al Qaeda will attempt a catastrophic attack within the U.S."
The worldwide caution was issued about a week after deadly train bombings killed more than 200 people in Madrid, Spain. Authorities are investigating several suspects for possible ties to al Qaeda. (Full story)
One senior State Department official said the new caution was not the result of new threats or intelligence, but was meant as a reminder for Americans to stay alert.
"Because of the recent events in Spain, we thought we needed to reinforce the message," the official said.
In the worldwide caution, the government said the potential terrorist actions could include "suicide operations, hijackings, bombings or kidnappings," and said "these may involve aviation and other transportation and maritime interests."
The caution went on to say that residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels and other public areas could be hit.
"Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets," it warned. "U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness."
U.S. government facilities remain on heightened alert, and facilities such as embassies or consulates may "from time to time" close or suspend operations to assess the security situation, the State Department said.
The worldwide caution, set to expire September 19, is the second issued this year. In January, the State Department warned Americans overseas that it expects al Qaeda "will strive for new attacks designed to be more devastating than the September 11 attack, possibly involving nonconventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents." (Full story)